Democratizing Music Education

We are in the midst of a thrilling shift in the accessibility of music. Every day, tens of thousands of parents subsidize their child’s music education by buying a smartphone or tablet.

Of course, no one thinks “music education!” when they buy a smartphone or tablet. We purchase mobile devices to access the internet, work, take photos, and text with friends. But these devices are also powerful pieces of music production hardware. Once a family owns one, the only barrier to a kids’ creativity in music becomes downloading the right app.

A new pathway into music:

The ability to learn about music on smartphones and tablets entails a radical shift in the availability of music education. Instrument lessons, which have traditionally been the only way to learn about music, cost thousands of dollars, take hundreds of hours, and have a 60% failure rate in the first year. While some families embrace these costs, many more do not. Either way too few kids successfully learn to love and understand music.

Mobile devices offer a starting point for music education which can be free, fun, and fretless. A single mother in India who cannot afford instrument lessons can substitute her smartphone instead! A Norwegian family who spends hours each day driving to hockey practice can engage their children with music by keeping a tablet in the back seat. Even families already taking instrument lessons can use technology in a complementary role to sustain and inform their child’s passion for music.

Zack teaching Danish students about Steps and Leaps with MusiQuest

But what does this new type of music education look like?

It is wonderful that hundreds of millions of kids worldwide will be able to easily and affordably learn about music on smartphones and tablets. But what does music education on mobile devices actually mean? How does it relate to instrument lessons? What is the difference between digital music creation and music education?

These are the sort of questions that Edify is dedicated to investigating. You can learn a bit more about our fundamental orientation from my co-founder Zack’s post on Learning Music Like a First Language. Soon we’ll expand on our belief that composition — traditionally the most rarefied musical activity — should actually be one of the very first ways a beginner engages music.

Jacob Zax

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